Monday, May 2, 2011

how to make a sun jar

The original Sun Jar was designed by Tobias Wong, but diy versions have been all around the web for years. I'd had a vague interest in making them, so when solar garden lights started becoming smaller and cheaper last fall, I got some and experimented.

Yesterday I saw an ad insert featuring solar lights at The Dollar Tree. You can't get much cheaper than that, so it seems a good time to share this version with you. It's the fastest, easiest and now, cheapest way I know to make a sun jar.

For each jar, you need:
  • a solar garden light (the kind that sits on a stake)
  • a small canning mason jar with a clear lid (Ikea SLOM jars work great)
  • glass frosting spray
  • clear silicone adhesive
The most critical part to keeping this project easy is finding the right solar garden light. Look for those in which the solar unit is a single, compact piece on the top of the fixture. I used these, by Westinghouse:
You can use other types, but it may involve deconstructing the solar unit a bit. This type of light, besides being small and inexpensive, makes it all very easy.
    Make a mask with newspaper and painters tape, and spray the inside of the jar with frosting spray. A few tips: spray outdoors, away from wind, and in a well-ventilated area; shake the can thoroughly before spraying; and keep the can moving slowly and continuously. Finally, use a light touch—the paint doesn't show up well until it dries, so have faith and add a second coat later if you need to.
    Unscrew the solar light unit from the bulb and stake. If you're lucky, it may fit right into the jar lid. If not, use a few blobs of the adhesive to attach it to the top of your jar.
    Run a bead of silicone around the edge of the light unit to secure it—
    —and that's it! You have a solar jar. You may have to remove a protective tab (orange with an arrow in the photo above) to let the battery connect. Close your lid, and place your jar in full sun to charge.
    I made a lot of jars last year, thinking they'd be good Christmas/Solstice gifts, but the winter sun is really too weak to give good charge to the solar cell. They're much better from this point on: the longer, brighter days translate to more glow time in the evening.

    This year I thought I'd add simple hangers. 12 gauge aluminum jewelry wire, wrapped and twisted around the top of the jar, worked perfectly. Each light needed about 30-36" of wire.

    The nice thing about aluminum wire is that it bends and twists easily. The problem with aluminum wires is that it bends and twists easily. In other words, it's easy to work with but also easy to mangle. I prefer to think of it as a deliberately rustic style.
    loop the wire around the jar 
    aluminum wire is soft enough to twist with your fingers
    it can be finished off with pliers
    the finished twist
    pull a loop out from the opposite side...
    ...and twist the loop with pliers 
    thread the end of the handle through the loop you've made
    With the little handle, you can hang it from a tree—
    —or hang several in a row under your eaves.
    Pretty, aren't they? Like little glass moons suspended in the night. Maybe they should be called Moon Jars instead.


    1. Enlightening!

    2. Beautiful! Wish they would charge under the gazebo ...

    3. Yes, unfortunately you have to charge them in full sun then move them. The hangers do make it easier to do this, though.

    4. Thanks for the tutorial. Love these!

    5. I love these! Maybe I can actually get it together to make some… :-)

    6. So cool! What a great project, and look wonderful under your eaves. I love your tutorial, so many great tips. I must try these.

    7. So pretty! Much nicer than any of the solar lanterns I've seen before.

    8. OMG I love these! I am sooo making some.


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